Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks | WIG215 | Released: 03/03/08

Image: Real Emotional Trash
It seems like there are more and more lists. Just as the heart worn ramshackle sound they created appears in the charts and tip sheets via Modest Mouse, Blitzen Trapper and Los Campesinos! Pavement have started to appear around the top of a lot of these lists as their influence lingers and solidifies. Far more exciting, especially in the here and now, is the fact Stephen Malkmus’ new album is amongst the most sparkling and mercurial music he has ever made.

Real Emotional Trash marks a departure – for the first time Malkmus has a band behind him whose chops and intuitive ability to run off a cliff in search of a chord progression matches his own. Janet Weiss, whose backing vocals illuminate a lot of these songs, is a drumming sensation. Along with bassist Joanna Bolme she forms a rhythm section whose sassiness is matched only by its heaviness and wig-out confidence; and having clicked, the Jicks really know how to cut loose.

There is a finessed jam feel at work in these tracks. "Hopscotch Willie" lunges hypnotically. "Elmo Delmo" suggests new definitions of the term headbanger. At over ten minutes, the title track echoes such epic jams as "Fairport’s A Sailor’s Life", "Marquee Moon" and Quicksilver Messenger Service’s Happy Trails. It also highlights Malkmus’ ability to effortlessly turn his guitar into a splintering neon saw one minute, a silver chooglin’ riff monster the next. Whatever else is happening in Portland, Oregon they should build a glass-domed psychedelic ballroom in the near future.
Real Emotional Trash, like a lot of great records, maps out its own wide open space and pushes itself around, shifts in different directions and changes its shape – a group locked together in the same psychic environment.

Scattered across the tracks are snatches of Malkmus’ trademark head-scratching insights: Cold Son finds the protagonist feeling “like a nympho stuck in a cloister”. The title track’s recollection that “down in Sausalito we had clams and dessert / you spilt chardonnay on your gypsy skirt” maintains the eye for social detail that suggest, had he been born a few generations earlier, Malkmus would have traded baseball cards and peyote tips with Terry Southern and John Updike.

When headlining the closing night of The Green Man Festival in 2007 Malkmus and the Jicks’ set drew heavily on Real Emotional Trash. The songs sounded blasted and psychedelically modern. What a rush that in their recorded state they are even more intuitive, starlit and stretched.

Image: Real Emotional Trash

WIGCD215 | Out now

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  • 01. Dragonfly Pie
  • 02. Hopscotch Willy
  • 03. Cold Son
  • 04. Real Emotional Trash
  • 05. Out Of Reaches
  • 06. Baltimore
  • 07. Gardenia
  • 08. Elmo Delmo
  • 09. We Can't Help You